On his travels that made up his book Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain visited Cairo where he was awe-struck by ‘The Imposing Sphinx’. Below is his experience recorded with his trademark ebullient wit and insight.
The Sphinx is grand in its loneliness; it is imposing in its magnitude; it is impressive in the mystery that hangs over its story. And there is that in the over-shadowing majesty of this eternal figure of stone, with its accusing memory of the deeds of all ages, which reveals to one something of what he shall find when he shall stand at last in the awful presence of God.
The Sphinx: a hundred and twenty-five feet long, sixty feet high, and a hundred and two feet around the head, if I remember rightly – carved out of one solid block of stone harder than any iron. The block must have been as large as the Fifth Avenue Hotel before the usual waste (by the necessities of sculpture) of a fourth or a half of the original mass was begun. I only set down these figures and these remarks to suggest the prodigious labour the carving of it so elegantly, so symmetrically, so faultlessly, must have cost. This species of stone is so hard that figures cut in it remain sharp and unmarred after exposure to the weather for two or three thousand years. Now did it take a hundred years of patient toil to carve the Sphinx? It seems probable. ■
The above extract is taken from our new book A Cairo Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Travel Writing. Edited by Deborah Manley, the book collects the writings of visitors including Giovanni Belzoni, Lord Byron, Florence Nightingale and William Makepeace Thackery.
Image courtesy of Lomby.